Holley Gets More Familiar With PSU

The four-star defensive tackle checked out the Nittany Lions' Blue-White Game Saturday. But with a relative attending Penn State, he is always plugged in to what's happening in Happy Valley.

Thomas Holley knows a bit more about Penn State than many might realize.

It's true -- the junior defensive tackle from Abraham Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.) learned plenty about the Nittany Lions while visiting for the Blue-White Game over the weekend. He also learned more about the PSU coaching staff and the Beaver Stadium game-day atmosphere.

But he doesn't need to physically be here to be in Happy Valley to stay up to date with what's happening there. His cousin, a nursing student at the university, can keep track of everything and pass along to him anything he wants to know. She can answer questions about its academics and campus life, too. She joined Holley, his aunt, uncle and mom on the Beaver Stadium sideline Saturday before the Blue-White Game.

“It was good. I got to see the competition between the players, and they were fired up with their play,” Holley said. “I got to see … how the crowd would be for a Penn State game, and from what I heard, there were about 50,000 people there.

“I can only imagine how many people would be there for real games, so that was pretty cool.”

Holley holds offers from programs across the nation at this point, and is widely considered the best player out of the Empire State in this particular cycle. His 6-foot-4, 290-pound frame is a big reason for that, and so, too, is his raw ability.

It's undoubtedly what intrigues Lion defensive line coach Larry Johnson, and his boss, Bill O'Brien. The FOX Sport NEXT four-star prospect spent time with both Saturday and came away pleased with what he heard.

“I talked to Coach O'Brien a little bit before his press conference, and he was asking me how I liked the game. He said he was very happy that I was able to make it up there,” Holley said. “He said he was fired up about it. Coach Johnson passed along the same message, and he was talking to me as far as not just being a football player, but as a person, too. He talked about the kind of guy he wants, and the things he would do for me.”

Plenty of college coaches around the country -- and many of the ones recruiting Holley -- offer genuine, sincere messages while recruiting. But what sets Johnson apart to Holley is that he, along with a few other coaches, are as concerned with their players' makeup and development off the field as they are on it.

“Things like that, I find important,” the prospect explained. “They're not just taking advantage of me as a football player and using me to win championships. That's definitely big for me, and Coach Johnson sends me letters and jokes about 'we want you here,' but talks about the little things, too.”

The junior is unsure where he might visit next. He wants to check out Miami, Florida and Florida State at some point. Meanwhile, Alabama, Ohio State and West Virginia -- and many others -- would welcome him to their campuses with open arms.

But the forgotten element of the recruiting game is the time, money and energy needed to make trip after trip after trip. It's why Holley is unsure where he'll visit next. Those decisions will come in the weeks ahead. His uncle and mother are the helpers who will assist in mapping the destinations.

Between visits and the end of the school year, Holley is focusing solely on football again. He competed for Lincoln's basketball team last winter, but has returned to working on the lifting, technique and other little things important to a high-level tackle.

And he'll also be thinking about his trip to Penn State, as the Blue-White Game clearly left a lasting impression.

“I didn't expect that many people to be there,” Holley said. “Some schools are basketball schools or focus on basketball, so for a school to focus on football that, it's big. People care about the team, and want to see them. There will be people cheering for you and backing you up no matter what, and that's important.

“It's definitely a place I can see myself at,” he continued. “It's a place I can go to take me to the next level. But I'm not going to jump to any (decision) until I get some ideas from some other places I could go to.”

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